For nearly a year now, I have been furiously listening to the History of Rome Podcast, trying to catch up to its most current postings. Now, just a few episodes short of my goal, I find out that the podcast's prolific author, Mike Duncan, is calling it quits. His wife is having a baby, right around the same time that Romulus Augustulus is being exiled in 476 AD, so he figured this was a good time to end it. I guess you've got to end it somewhere (unless you follow the theory that the Roman Empire never actually ended), so this is as good as any, but man, I'm going to miss these recordings.
I grew up receiving what I consider a pretty solid education, largely paid for by California taxpayers, but I somehow missed gaining (or retaining, anyway) any substantive knowledge about Rome. A disturbingly high percentage of the information I knew about ancient Rome up until last year was derived from the film "Gladiator" and one episode of "I, Claudius" a high school literature teacher decided to show us for reasons that now escape me. A year ago, I could maybe have named four Roman emperors, and one of them was Joaquin Phoenix. The History of Rome Podcast provided me with the education that I'd somehow missed.
I don't know too much about what Duncan does when he's not podcasting, but he's provided a real service to the world here and has created an impressive body of historical work. His approach is quite judicious, acknowledging disagreements among historians but not getting bogged down in arcane arguments, and managing to provide an impressive sense of narrative in each of his episodes. As I'd imagine he'd concede, the podcast is often a history of Roman emperors rather than of Rome; such is, I'm sure, a reflection of the available historical information. Duncan attempted to remedy this with a few outstanding episodes, such as his depiction of the daily life of a typical Roman in the 2nd century AD or the wonderful Q&A session or the description of Diocletian's economic reforms and how they impacted tradesman for centuries to come.
I consider myself fundamentally improved thanks to the jogs and drives I spent listening to Mike's podcast, and I hope he'll be able to take on more of this in the future. I'll listen.